Justice Dept.: Norway non-profit to pay $2M for violating False Claims Act

April 4 (UPI) — The Justice Department on Tuesday settled with a Norwegian non-profit group over allegations it supported groups designated by the United States as “terrorist” before receiving aid from the U.S. government.

The Oslo-based Norwegian People’s Aid received several grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development between 2012 and 2016 to provide aid in developing countries in Africa. The Department of Justice said before receiving the grants, NPA had provided material support to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine — all of which are on the State Department’s Sponsors of Terrorism List.

Groups that provide support to any organization on the U.S. terror blacklist are not eligible to receive relief funds from USAID.

The Justice Department said each year it applied for aid, the NPA wrongly indicated on forms it had not and would not provide aid to any organization on the U.S. list. Doing so violated the False Claims Act.

“For years, Norwegian People’s Aid obtained grant money from USAID by falsely representing that it had not provided, and would take reasonable steps to ensure that it did not knowingly provide, material support to prohibited parties under U.S. law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

The Justice Department said the NPA had provided “training and expert advice or assistance” to the banned organizations.

U.S. officials said the NPA conducted a mine clearing project in Iran that, in some aspects, coordinated with the Iranian military. With Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Norwegian group funded a project that encouraged civic participation, titled “Youth of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow.”

“Through this project, young people in the Gaza Strip, aged 15 through 28, who were affiliated with one of the project’s partner political parties, received training aimed at making them more effective participants in the political process,” the Justice Department said. “Such training included programs intended to improve the participants’ ability to organize, debate, negotiate, advocate for their positions, and resolve conflicts.”

Tuesday marked the second time in the past year the Justice Department reached a settlement with an organization over the False Claims Act. In March 2017, the American University of Beirut paid $700,000 to settle claims it violated the law.